Even as Bobby Jindal carries the weight of the Republican Party with the official GOP response to President Barack Obama’s lobbying speech for his $787 billion stimulus package tonight, the Louisiana governor’s own political future weighs heavily on his message.
Indeed, some political observers cast the addresses as the initial duel between the two if Jindal were to become the GOP’s candidate challenging Obama in 2012, as some suggest could happen.
Jindal, who was on Sen. John McCain’s short list for vice-presidential candidates last year, has continued to attract media attention, especially after joining a cadre of GOP governors who spurned stimulus money because of strings attached.
Jindal said he would reject almost $100 million tabbed for his state, mostly because Louisiana would have to continue funding programs after the stimulus expires.
“It would be like spending a dollar to make a dime,” Jindal said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I just have a fundamental disagreement with this package.”
He said he would accept the stimulus money to increase unemployment benefits by $25 a week. But he drew the line at accepting money to expand eligibility for unemployment, saying it would increase employer taxes.
Jindal had stepped into the limelight on the package when the GOP announced Feb. 11 that he would be the GOP standard-bearer to deliver the response to Obama’s speech before a joint session of Congress tonight.
In announcing that choice, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said Jindal “embodies what I have long said: The Republican Party must not be simply the party of 'opposition,' but the party of better solutions. His stewardship of the state of Louisiana, dedication to reforming government and commitment to bringing forth new and innovative ideas make him a leader not just within the Republican Party, but in our nation as a whole."
The media spotlight also has amped for the 37-year-old governor The New York Times has described as “one to watch among those in the next generation of leaders.”
Other newspaper comments at home and abroad about the ramifications of Jindal’s speech include:
The Washington Post: “While the selection of the Indian-American Jindal is hardly a surprise, as many in the GOP view him as their party's leading presidential prospect, the appearance will be Jindal's more prominent on the national stage. Jindal, who won the Louisiana governor's mansion in 2007, has so far shot down speculation about running for the presidency in 2012.”
New York Observer: “For Jindal, this will probably be the main benefit of his moment in the spotlight. The content of opposition party responses tends to be forgotten by voters almost instantly (assuming it even registers with them in the first place), along with the identity of the speaker. It's not quite the same type of exposure as a convention keynote address. But reporters will remember, which will ensure Jindal an even more prominent place in media discussion about the 2012 presidential race — a discussion he very much wants to be a part of.”
The Guardian: “Barack Obama will be under pressure . . . but not as much as Bobby Jindal, who will reply on behalf of the Republicans, with a performance that could determine his own presidential hopes.
”Jindal . . . the Republican Party's new hope, needs to demonstrate confidence and competence — and show a little sparkle — to boost his hopes of being chosen to take on Obama in 2012.”
Shreveport (La.) Times: “Michael Steele, press secretary for House Minority Leader John Boehner, said the Republican leadership in Congress has read Jindal's speech. But he declined to discuss its content.
"The speech is great," Steele said. "We only gave it a few tweaks."
“Top Republican officials have been grooming Jindal for the national spotlight since his election. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has labeled him ‘the most transformative young governor in America,’ and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh refers to him as ‘the next Ronald Reagan’."
Speaking of Limbaugh, who has crossed swords menacingly with Obama in recent weeks, says Democrats “are trying to tie Bobby Jindal to me in hopes of making him out to be an extremist.”
Limbaugh added during his show Monday: “That's exactly what Obama was trying to do when he called me out in that meeting with Republican and Democrat leaders in the White House when he said, ‘Don't listen to Limbaugh.’ The Obama theory is get rid of the playing field, you know, clear it, don't level it.”
Speaking of clearing the field, Limbaugh also has an interesting take on Obama’s choosing to deliver his speech tonight: “That's the night American Idol is on. Largest TV viewing night of the week. He forced Fox to move American Idol to Wednesday night. So how many dingleberry dunkheads are going to be tuning in to watch American Idol and all of a sudden there's Obama and his quasi-state of the union?”
With the Republicans hoping for Jindal to follow with a slam dunk for their party.
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